Justice and Injustices

As human beings we are always trying to differentiate right and wrong. We are constantly searching for what is the right thing to do so that we can make sure our actions are just. We do the right thing so we can satisfy our craving for justice. But there are times where justice cannot be obtained by doing the “right” thing because obtaining justice will always require some sort of action be done even if that action is wrong. Shakespeare’ Julius Caesar shows that before justice can take place there must be injustice.

Nothing can be gained without first sacrificing something. Justice is the same way. The sacrifice for justice takes form in peoples actions. Sometimes those actions can be considered unjust, but if they are necessary to obtain justice then they are justified. Brutus knew that having justice in Rome was the number one priority. He knew he could not let anything with the possibility to do harm and cause injustice to Rome thrive. Caesar was a potential injustice and Brutus knew he needed to be gotten rid of.

He states, “But, alas, Caesar must bleed for it,” II. I. 184. Caesars’ life was a necessary sacrifice for the justice of Rome and it was the only option to get rid of the potential threat despite it being morally wrong. In order to obtain justice the unjust killing of Caesar was justified. Only people who know have known injustice know which sacrifices are necessary to bring about justice. As a result only those who have known injustice can bring about justice. The injustice shows what needs to be done in order to bring about justice.

Without injustice happening first there is no way of knowing what needs to be done to have justice. If someone has not experienced injustice it is not possible for him or her to know what should be done to bring about justice. Justices and injustices influence an individual and community at local and national levels, which can in turn impact on the ability of the individual to belong. For example, the book The Republic, Plato searches for justice within the individual and what makes a person ‘just’.

By comparing his sense of what is just at a political level and what is just at a psychological level he suggests three virtues of the individual, which will make that particular person just. The virtues of wisdom, courage and moderation are common to both a just and the fictional just city of Kallipolis. This artificial city has the pre-determined virtue of being just – he does this in order to understand what justice is for the individual because Plato thinks that ‘a just man won’t differ at all from a just city in respect to the form of justice; rather he’ll be like the city.

’ (Republic 435b) In the just city Plato creates three classes: the producers, the guardians and the rulers. Each of these three classes has a certain virtue it has to display to fulfill the ‘just city’ pre-requisite that Plato has placed upon Kallipolis. The rulers are required to exhibit wisdom so that ‘a whole city established according to nature would be wise because of the smallest class and part in it, namely the governing or ruling one. And to this class, belongs a share of the knowledge that alone among all the other kinds of knowledge is to be called wisdom.

’ (428e-429a) The wisdom enjoyed by the rulers would be used to ensure that the city has ‘good judgment and [be] really wise. ’ (428d) The guardians (soldiers) of Kallipolis would be educated in order to absorb the laws in the finest possible way (430a) – ‘so that their belief about what they should fear and all the rest would become so fast that even such extremely effective detergents such as pleasure, pain, fear and desire wouldn’t wash it out. ’ Their ability to remain focused is the virtue of courage – which Plato concludes will lead to justice within the city.

The final class of Kallipolis – the producers – will exhibit the virtue of moderation so the city will be just. Plato thinks that moderation is crucial to the existence of justice because ‘it makes the weakest, the strongest, and those in between all sing the same song together. And this unanimity, this agreement between the naturally worse and the naturally better as to which of the two is to rule both in the city and in each one is rightly called moderation.

’ (432a-b) The idea of harmony is crucial to Plato’s definition of justice, as justice to him means each part of society works together in the best way possible, with each part of society content to play out its particular role as best it can. As Plato explains: ‘Justice, I think, is exactly what we said must be established throughout the city when we were founding it… that everyone must practice one of the occupations in the city for which he is naturally best suited.

’(433a) Once Plato has found justice within the larger environment of Kallipolis he seeks to transfer it back into the human soul, which he identified as having more than one single driving force. Plato bases this assumption on the ability of a person to be indecisive about actions such as drinking when something in their soul forbids them to do so even if they desire it. This indecisiveness can be transformed into internal conflict between more than one part of the soul. Plato concludes: ‘…that they are two, and different from one another.

We’ll call the part of the soul with which it calculates the rational part and the part with which it lusts, hungers, thirsts and gets excited by other appetites the irrational appetitive part, companion of certain indulgences and pleasures. ’ (439d) Plato then identifies a third part of the soul, the spirited part, which is used to create emotions. Originally it was felt that this part might not actually be separate from the appetitive aspect of the soul, but when the appetitive part is fighting it is, in effect, waging a civil war against the rational part within the soul.

In this scenario a person will get angry and reproach him/herself, in effect having the spirited part of the soul allied with the rational part of the soul. At this point Plato uses his conclusions from his analysis of the three classes of Kallipolis as a metaphor to transfer their virtues to the individual, in order to discover justice within the soul. His statement that ‘we are pretty much agreed that the same number and the same kinds of classes as are in the city are also in the soul of each individual’ (441c) confirms the relationship between Kallipolis and the individual.

It is therefore obvious to Plato that the rational part of the soul should rule, as the rulers in the city do, because they both exhibit the virtue of wisdom and can therefore exercise foresight on behalf of the entire soul. (441e) Similarly, just as the guardians assist the rulers in maintaining justice within the city, the spirited part of the soul will use emotions in order to maintain order and harmony within the soul – which is justice.

These two parts of the soul will be able to control its appetitive part, which may, through its insatiable desire for money, attempt to overthrow its particular role and rule over the body and eventually the classes that it is not naturally suited to rule over. (442a) Consequently, justice in the individual and justice in the city would be overturned leading to chaos and war. The rulers and guardians exist in order to control and direct the producers who are the majority of the population, as the rational and spirited parts of the soul rule the desires of the individual.

Therefore a just person would be one with a spirited part of the soul that would persevere through pleasures and pains in order to carry out the rational part’s intentions on what should be feared and what should not. (442b) This ability is identifiable as the virtue of courage, which is evident in the guardians. Moreover, this pattern of parallel virtues between the city and the soul continues as a person’s reason is most able to make decisions about what is advantageous for each part and for the whole soul when he/she has the knowledge associated with wisdom.

As a result the desires should be kept in a state of moderation by the rational part of the soul so ‘that the ruler and the ruled both agree that the rational part should rule and not engage in civil war’. (442c) In conclusion, justice in the individual is similar to justice within the city – where a person ‘puts himself in order, is his own friend, and harmonizes the three parts of himself like three limiting notes in a musical scale’.

(443d) In the city, justice is obtained by the three parts of society each fulfilling their role as best they can, and displaying the same three virtues of wisdom, courage and moderation. This leads to a harmony between the parts, the best possible combination, which is described as justice by Plato both within the city and within the soul. This should be obvious as; after all, a city is made up of many individuals.